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Old 02-02-2010, 04:09 PM   #1
balsam
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open discussion: Countless human hours wasted configuring Linux displays


I have installed various distros on about 14 computers in my first year of using Linux. On all but one of these I had to screw around for hours configuring the resolution, default display mode, and/or video drivers, etc. I spend hours google searching, reading threads, man pages, tutorials,..

I thought maybe this was something you could learn over the course of several installations, but its different every time, and its hard to even remember what you did by the time you finally finish the task.

Can anyone comment on why things are the way they are?

I think about this: There are thousands of people out there developing advanced applications, network protocols, eye-candy desktop environments, distro upon distro, and yet something that is among the most fundamental components of a computing system: -the DISPLAY OUTPUT- is still in the under-developed, backwards state that its in. Why?

Think of all the wonderful things that the millions of people could have done with the time they spent/spend configuring Linux displays.

I'm thankful to have free$, free, open source operating systems and software. I haven't contributed one line of code to the world, so I'm not part of the solution. But with such a great software, why are we still in the dark ages fumbling around with config files etc in order to set up a display resolution and refresh rate on our monitors?
 
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Old 02-02-2010, 04:24 PM   #2
Quakeboy02
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Perhaps if you could post what your problems were rather than posting a rant? Rants are annoying and generally get negative responses, like this one.
 
Old 02-02-2010, 04:29 PM   #3
balsam
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I did post my problem.

~

This is a general Linux forum, and I'd like to discuss this matter. Any thoughts, info, history, insights?
 
Old 02-02-2010, 04:33 PM   #4
brianL
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Countless hours? No. I didn't time it, but all it took for me was to run xorgsetup (that was force of habit, and may not have been necessary), then download and install the NVidia driver.
 
Old 02-02-2010, 04:39 PM   #5
Quakeboy02
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Quote:
Originally Posted by balsam View Post
I did post my problem.

~

This is a general Linux forum, and I'd like to discuss this matter. Any thoughts, info, history, insights?
Spell it out for the rest of us. We weren't there. We didn't see it happen. What EXACTLY happens that causes you to spend time doing what for the most of us is a non-event?
 
Old 02-02-2010, 05:27 PM   #6
MTK358
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I agree with the OP, getting graphics to work in Linux is a horrible experience, especially with my dual-head setup. It would be nice if there was some universl config tool that supports dual head that would automatically make you a xorg.conf. The coloset thing to this was something in Fedora (I think it was called system-config-display).

And the worst part is that all this is so poorly documented for beginners that want things to just work.

In one thread I finally got the answer to how to make dual head work in Arch Linux with xrandr, and it's pretty simple. But it sn't documented anywhere on the whole internet in an even slightly newbie-friendly way!

Here's something I hope might help some of you using dual head and xrandr:

Run xrandr to tell how your monitors are named (in my case, DVI-0 and DVI-1):

Code:
$ xrandr
Screen 0: minimum 320 x 200, current 2560 x 1024, maximum 2560 x 1024
DVI-1 connected 1280x1024+1280+0 (normal left inverted right x axis y axis) 338mm x 270mm
   1280x1024      60.0*+   75.0  
   1024x768       75.0     70.1     60.0  
   832x624        74.6  
   800x600        72.2     75.0     60.3     56.2  
   640x480        75.0     72.8     66.7     59.9  
   720x400        70.1  
DVI-0 connected 1280x1024+0+0 (normal left inverted right x axis y axis) 376mm x 301mm
   1280x1024      60.0*+   75.0  
   1280x960       60.0  
   1152x864       75.0  
   1024x768       75.0     70.1     60.0  
   832x624        74.6  
   800x600        72.2     75.0     60.3     56.2  
   640x480        75.0     72.8     66.7     59.9  
   720x400        70.1
Corresponding xorg.conf:

Code:
Section "Monitor"
        Identifier "DVI-0"
EndSection 

Section "Monitor"
        Identifier "DVI-1"
        Option "RightOf" "DVI-0"
EndSection

Section "Screen"
        Identifier "Screen0"
        SubSection "Display"
                Virtual 2560 1024 These dimensions must be able to fit the entire desktop. In this case, two 1280x1024 monitors side-by-side
        EndSubSection
EndSection

Last edited by MTK358; 02-02-2010 at 05:28 PM.
 
Old 02-02-2010, 05:35 PM   #7
pixellany
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The OP does have a point, but the more recent versions of X are much better. X is not the only area in which Linux improves faster than does the documentation.
 
Old 02-02-2010, 05:36 PM   #8
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I'd like to suggest that historically, a lack of cooperation by hardware makers with Linux developers, has probably been a large part of the problem with not only X and video, but look at how wireless support has been!?

Both are getting better all the time; wireless has been making great progress this past year or two. But over the length of time that Linux devels have had to reverse engineer EVERYTHING, things are bound to have diverged here and there, and eventually, we are where we are today: dozens of ways to do stuff, hundreds of places to get all sorts of different documentation, but not necessarily one single cohesive way to necessarily get "everything" from one place, and have it apply to EVERY distro, for ANY card.

Blame MS!

EDIT: Besides this is (A) one of the costs of so much variety (I'm not complaining!), and (B) would give us less to do if everything worked instantly just the way we wanted it to

Last edited by GrapefruiTgirl; 02-02-2010 at 05:40 PM.
 
Old 02-02-2010, 05:53 PM   #9
MTK358
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GrapefruiTgirl View Post
I'd like to suggest that historically, a lack of cooperation by hardware makers with Linux developers, has probably been a large part of the problem with not only X and video, but look at how wireless support has been!?

Both are getting better all the time; wireless has been making great progress this past year or two. But over the length of time that Linux devels have had to reverse engineer EVERYTHING, things are bound to have diverged here and there, and eventually, we are where we are today: dozens of ways to do stuff, hundreds of places to get all sorts of different documentation, but not necessarily one single cohesive way to necessarily get "everything" from one place, and have it apply to EVERY distro, for ANY card.

Blame MS!

EDIT: Besides this is (A) one of the costs of so much variety (I'm not complaining!), and (B) would give us less to do if everything worked instantly just the way we wanted it to
Wireless was such a pain for me that I actually got a pair ethernet-to-coaxial units for my computer instead of wireless.

And yes, I agree that it is the fault of Microsoft and hardware manufacturers who refuse to support Linux, not Linux itself.

Anyway, I finally have all the graphics working with xrandr and the xf86-video-ati driver, with my slightly-outdated Radeon HD 2600 (because it works with the FOSS driver). 3D isn't really great, but it's good enough for me, and in my opinion the disadvantages of ATI's and Nvidia's proprietary drivers far outweigh this.

Last edited by MTK358; 02-02-2010 at 05:56 PM.
 
Old 02-02-2010, 06:05 PM   #10
TB0ne
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Quote:
Originally Posted by balsam View Post
I did post my problem.
~
This is a general Linux forum, and I'd like to discuss this matter. Any thoughts, info, history, insights?
Sorry, just don't see it. "Countless hours"???

I've used it for years...Mandrake (before they became Mandriva), openSUSE, Fedora, and RHEL. Have configured my main display at system build-time. When I wanted to change it later, ran the system config tool (yast for openSUSE, etc.), and clicked buttons to change values, enable 3D acceleration, etc. KDE and Gnome all support dual-head configs easily now...I'm using KDE now, and can click "Configure Desktop -> Display", and there's a "Multiple Monitors" button. Can't get much easier than that.

ATI's drivers are lacking, in my opinion, but the nVidia drivers have all worked fine for me, and have always installed easily, with clear instructions.

Now if you're talking about doing stuff like five monitors, with three graphics cards, with different screen sizes/resolutions/etc, then yes, that will be a pain. Generic X setup and dual-head? Very little to it.
 
Old 02-02-2010, 07:16 PM   #11
balsam
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Maybe I should have clarified that I'm a Linux beginner and also that I'm not someone who absorbs computer material effortlessly.

It may surprise some of you that there are people out there who are spending hours setting up their displays. In my searching I've seen threads that went on for days, so I know I'm not the only one. I have spent hours on a single computer, but what I'm really expressing here is the overall (collective) hours that I've spent on display configuration. This isn't personal complaining. I'm more thinking about all the thousands of people worldwide that experience the same, and I wonder what the forces and factors involved are. And why there isn't more of an effort to present a coherent, reasonably straight-forward, beginner-understandable document.

Hardware-wise, part of my personal experience might be that I'm not using Nvidia, and I'm not always using mainstream distros. -The less mainstream distros being less-developed, and less well documented.

Aptitude-wise I'll openly admit that I don't remember everything I read and try. Often I see a command that someone suggested in a thread in some forum, and I don't understand what it does or why. But someone is suggesting it for my exact task, so I try it. Sometimes it works. If it does I don't learn much. Sometimes its probably making things worse? Doing nothing? Causing other problems that manifest later?

By the time I've spent hours, it blends into one big jumble in my mind. I should probably make a journal or something as I go and take notes. but everytime I think "Maybe it'll be easy this time." And I see people saying that its easy, or should be easy (not just in this thread). So I kind of expect it to get easier and I think that It will eventually sink in, but each time its like I've never done it before. Some of this is becuase I'm using a different desktop environment, or a different window manager, etc

One thing I'd like to ask for other people's thoughts on is this:

I think that there must be many people who try Linux for the first time and have to configure their display, run into the disjointed matrix of threads and inadequate documentation, and they just say "I can't deal with this."

In this thread the question has been asked: "what am I doing when I sit down to configure a display?" The answer is I don't really know. I try to edit the /etc/X11/xorg.conf file. Often the computer goes into low resolution mode because I messed something up. And I read the man pages. Its obviously written by a total computer person. Hard to understand for a beginner. -And I try my best, consult threads, post threads,..

I've also tried xranr/lxrandr, -which I only found out about recently. often nothing changes when I enter a command.

I dont' really even understand what a dekstop environment actually IS. Same for Xserver. Same for xorg, same for window manager, same for Xwindows.

I still haven't been able to find a good inclusive tutorial on installing drivers. (and when to do so)

Sometimes I have also tried the phighXserver command (can't remmember the exact command but you probably know the one I'm refering to.) Its the one where you back up xorg.conf and then run the command.

I have also booted in recovery mode and tried something. I don't remember what it was now.

If I was pursuing a mastery of computer science and Unix-based systems, and if I wanted to become a level-11 linux master, -then the response would be "Hey buddy. Just get some manuals and textbooks and learn your chops." I get that. But that's not really my intent. I'd do it if it was effortless for me, but its not and its been pretty rough. The people in the forunms are very helpful, but overall Linux just makes me feel inferior to other computer people. I have a long attention span, and I don't mind having to do some research to be able to utilize a wonderful system such as Linux. But its proving to be a bit too much. And if I was attempting to do something cool like setting up a cluster network from scratch, -I could tolerate the frustration. But it just doesn't seem like setting up a display should be this complicated.

I mean computers used to beep and had levers & dials, and then they added a keyboard and a visual display. So aren't these the most basic functions/harware? Input & output?

I can understand the wireless card complexity, it just seems like this display thing is a little harder than it should be.

I know I'm not the only one that's left feeling incapable

I'm open to any comments on any of this, including suggestions on how/where to learn this stuff. Because I'm not going back to MS, so I have to learn it somehow.

Last edited by balsam; 02-02-2010 at 07:25 PM.
 
Old 02-02-2010, 07:33 PM   #12
Quakeboy02
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Quote:
Hardware-wise, part of my personal experience might be that I'm not using Nvidia, and I'm not always using mainstream distros. -The less mainstream distros being less-developed, and less well documented.
Finally, we get to the very crux of your problem, which offers the obvious solution. Nvidia is the way to go unless you have a laptop that has something else. But, even with other manufacturers, there are automated tools to setup your screen configuration. Have you found them and tried using them?

But, more importantly: using a less-developed distro is simply putting a gun to your head. So perhaps you could tell us why, as a newbie, you would do such a thing? Wouldn't it make more sense to start with Ubuntu or Debian to get the feel of Linux before putting such a roadblock in your own path to success? Is there some reason, other than testosterone, that you don't use a more mainline distro?
 
Old 02-02-2010, 07:51 PM   #13
balsam
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I assure you its not testosterone! : )

I use Ubuntu on my personal desktop and Puppy on my laptop (a P3 Dell, I only use it on the road.)

The other computers I've set up were older machines for people who coudln't afford newer ones. I chose distros such as U-lite and Deli linux, because I wanted to get the most performance out of the limited hardware. Even something relatively mainstream like Xubuntu is hard to get responses about in a Ubuntu forum. People tend to ignore threads with the word Xubuntu in the title. Also these distros don't have much documentation (that I've found anyway.)

I know NVidia is ideal, but I have to use whatever Matrox, S3, Trident, etc cards that I have available. Also onboard graphics.

Last edited by balsam; 02-02-2010 at 07:54 PM.
 
Old 02-02-2010, 08:19 PM   #14
MTK358
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Quote:
Originally Posted by balsam View Post
It may surprise some of you that there are people out there who are spending hours setting up their displays. In my searching I've seen threads that went on for days, so I know I'm not the only one.
I've started countless such threads on numerous forums, only one was ever solved (finally)!

And I obviously disagree that Nvidia is the ONLY way to go.

ATI + FOSS drivers is good is you don't abselutely need top-notch 3D performance. FOSS drivers also intagrate with Linux and X11 much better.

Last edited by MTK358; 02-02-2010 at 08:21 PM.
 
Old 02-02-2010, 08:48 PM   #15
Quakeboy02
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Quote:
Originally Posted by balsam View Post
The other computers I've set up were older machines for people who coudln't afford newer ones. I chose distros such as U-lite and Deli linux, because I wanted to get the most performance out of the limited hardware. Even something relatively mainstream like Xubuntu is hard to get responses about in a Ubuntu forum. People tend to ignore threads with the word Xubuntu in the title. Also these distros don't have much documentation (that I've found anyway.)

I know NVidia is ideal, but I have to use whatever Matrox, S3, Trident, etc cards that I have available. Also onboard graphics.
I'm glad we finally got here. My best suggestion is that the next time you're setting up a machine in an environment you're not familiar with is to post here on LQ with the machine type, the distro, the video board, and what you're trying to accomplish. There's also the Search button over there on the right, or the similar threads list at the bottom, that are often useful.
 
  


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